Neighborhood Heroes

One of my fellow agents on July 4th sent me a copy of the Declaration of Independence, which I had not read in a long, long time. And apparently I had never before read — really read — the final sentence:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Additional readings during the long weekend helped me much more fully to understand just how much the Declaration “cost” its signors. Most, I learned, died with far less wealth than before its adoption. Some, in fact, were downright poor.

That got me to thinking about how much each of us owes not only to them, and to all those who have subsequently fought and died to keep us free, but also to folks who on a day-to-day basis live “sacrificial lives” so that our lives might be better. So today I want to tip my hat to a few “neighborhood heroes” who have worked mightily to improve our quality of life.

Our beautiful Midtown Montgomery neighborhoods are no accident. They are the result of homeowners who care and some very special folks who go the extra mile to make sure the vistas we see during our comings and goings are particularly pleasing to the eye.

Old Cloverdale has two such special people, Anne Waldo and Karen Benton. No doubt you have driven past the entry to Hazel Hedge (at Carter Hill and College Street) on many occasions and have probably marveled at the ever-gorgeous display of flowers. Anne deserves credit for that. Since moving to the neighborhood in 2001, she has put her prodigious gardening talents to work transforming the once-marginal wide entryway into a rainbow of colors that change with the season and never disappoint.

If you’ve noted trees popping up in Old Cloverdale (no, not the volunteer kind, but well-developed specimens obviously nursery grown), you can thank Karen Benton for that. Karen’s first real project was to transform the intersection of Cloverdale Road and Magnolia Curve. As long as I can remember, it had been an eyesore — but no longer. Through Karen’s efforts, several magnolias now stand there proudly. Her only challenge has been to keep them alive, and you can help by volunteering to water periodically — there and elsewhere.

Karen’s other major projects have been to add many trees to College Street Park at Magnolia Curve; and to Lurleen Wallace Park, in the triangle formed by Legrand, Norman Bridge and Fairview. In fact, Karen has developed an extensive tree planting plan for that park and won $2,200 in grants from Alabama Power and Wal-Mart. You can watch as it transforms from wide open space to a more natural and “woodsy” environment. It was in Wallace Park earlier this year that Karen was named a Tree Hero by the Montgomery Tree Committee.

Still another noteworthy beautifier is Lynne Zaris of the Garden District. As a result of a grant that she wrote during the last decade, the District received a $7,500 tree replacement grant from Alabama Power and now boasts literally hundreds of new trees.

Even before the grant funds became available, because of her passion for the beauty and value of our tree canopy, Lynne bought and had planted a now-towering tulip poplar in a space left barren by an oak felled by Hurricane Ivan. And that passion has also caused the Garden District board to earmark $3,000 additional for tree replacement in future years.

Ladies, I thank you and Midtown Montgomery thanks you, too!

Do you know of other heroes that we should recognize here? Add your comments below, please. And thanks to you as well.

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.


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